Armenia is not featured in the IPI due to the lack of Open Budget Index. However, Armenia meets the minimal fiscal transparency criteria set by the State Department in 2019 (https://www.state.gov/2019-fiscal-transparency-report/) . Although it is a small and poor country, Armenia has high resources for corruption due to high administrative discretion and poor regulation, for instance in ensuring competitiveness of procurement. Reforms have started to promote some administrative simplifications and build public accountability and transparency which should be continued. Armenia needs a full-fledged Georgian like administrative revolution to prevent corruption and eliminate legal rents, as reforming its post-Soviet judiciary is not, in the short and medium term, likely to provide a solid foundation for efficient anticorruption.
The Stefan Batory Foundation, in cooperation with other seven NGOs*, has launched the website www.politicalfinance.org, devoted to analysing the regulation systems of campaign and political party financing in 7 countries: Armenia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Moldova, Mongolia and Poland.
The website is the result of a research project initiated in February 2012, whose goal was to examine political finance regulation in each country from the perspective of the mechanisms protecting policy-making against undue influence of interest groups. In addition to preparing the seven individual country reports, the project also conducted a comparative analysis of the different systems and highlighted advantages and disadvantages of each one, emphasising arrangements that can be seen as best practice.
The country reports are published on the website and cover the specific features of each regulatory system, including an assessment of the effectiveness of adopted solutions, case studies and policy recommendations. In addition to the country-specific recommendations, three common recommendations for the participating countries have been developed: (a) to increase availability of information on donors and original invoices and receipts on party expenditures; (b) to strengthen the role of public institutions responsible for the oversight of party financing; and (c) to provide long-term financing of political parties from the public budget. The analysis and recommendations are published in English and Russian language versions.
A more detailed analysis of the country reports allows for a closer overview of how the regulatory systems differ from country to country and the particularly weaknesses that each country’s system presents. The Armenia country report shows, for instance, how the lack of sanctions to false financial reports by political parties or illegal donations to election funds negatively affects the political finance environment in the country. In Estonia, the possibility of cash donations severely hinders transparency regarding the funds that political parties and campaigns receive. In Georgia, differently than in other of the selected countries, the country report emphasises issues related to the unequal application of electoral laws to different parties, which jeopardises the fairness of political competition and the electoral process. Apart from specific issues that each country faces, there are common obstacles to more integrity and equity in political finance in some of the countries, such as the need for restrictions on private or corporate donations, and for increased transparency and detail in the disclosure of donations and expenditures.
The participants to the project hope that the initiative will stimulate further discussion on the need for reforms in the political party financing sector and further advocacy efforts. In the long term, this initiative aims to determine positive changes in the financing of political parties and to contribute to improving transparency in this field as well as to prevent corruption.
*The other organisations contributing to this project are: Stefan Batory Foundation (Poland); Stanczyk Institute of Civic Thought Foundation (Poland); Institute for Development and Social Initiatives (IDIS) “Viitorul” (Moldova); Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) (Georgia); Transparency International Anti-Corruption Centre (Armenia); Transparency International Czech Republic; Transparency International Estonia; and Open Society Forum (Mongolia).
Transparency International’s chapters in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia have published together the report entitled “Handbook on the Freedom of Information in the South Caucasus Countries”. The study was produced as part of the regional research project “Freedom of Information in the South Caucasus”, financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.
The report found that, although all three countries have overall made significant progress toward formally guaranteeing freedom of information to its citizens, some gaps in the implementation of FOI legislation remain. With regards to the oversight mechanisms, for instance, the study points out that only Azerbaijan has established an independent body to monitor compliance to the respective laws, but its effectiveness is questioned.
The study also reports results of a survey that examined the degree of awareness and knowledge among the population about their fundamental right to know. The majority of Azerbaijanis and Georgians declared that they would not exercise their right of freedom to information in order to access public information related to the officials’ salary, public procurement, party financing, defense, education and not even private ownership, whereas in Armenia willingness to actively make use of access to information rights was higher, reaching 71%.
The making of the report included additionally a test of different public agencies in performing their duty to provide requested information under the relevant laws. The handbook also provides a detailed compilation of international and national standards relevant for South Caucasus region on freedom of information, thus offering a primary source for research to anyone interested in the right to access to information in the region.